A combination of strong full-moon tides and good weather with only an occasional thunderstorm gave anglers and families a chance to get one last shot at summer boating before the kids hit the classroom to start the school year.
Inshore, the morning hours were the best time to look for action working top-water lures. The first couple hours of sunlight found redfish and trout chasing surface baits over shallow water in south Matlacha Pass and in the sound near the Flamingo Bay entrance. Juvenile tarpon up to 15 pounds were also hooked on both conventional and fly tackle in the post dawn hours.
Very strong mid-morning incoming tides brought good trout action, plus a mix of bluefish, mackerel, small sharks, and huge ladyfish. Fish were reported from Bokeelia to St. James in Pine Island Sound over deeper grass bottoms from 4 to 8 feet. Many of the trout are running just under-size but there was also larger fish up to 22 inches caught. Often the action was fast and with a little time a limit of good fish was achieved. Free lined live pilchards, small pinfish under a popping cork, and DOA shrimp; also under a popping cork were the favored baits. Capt. Gary Clark also reports catching redfish up to 6 pounds on the open water flats, mixed with the trout, north of the power lines in the sound.
Look for redfish under the mangroves this month. Helmut Rauch caught this big redfish on a live pinfish under the sbade of the mangroves on high water. He was fishing Matlacha Pass with Captain Bill Russell on last weeks full moon tides.
As usual this month the majority of the redfish reported were caught under the shade of the mangroves on the high water. Fish to 29 inches were hooked near Masters Landing in Matlacha Pass, off the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor, and throughout the keys in the sound south of Pineland.
Baits included pilchards, shrimp, pinfish and ladyfish steaks. A favored technique is to chum the area under the mangroves with cut pieces of any of the above, then take a silver dollar-sized pinfish, cut its tail off and fish it in the same spot as the chum using a light sinker to keep it in position.
Gag grouper and mangrove snapper were caught from Captiva and Boca Grande passes; most of the grouper are running undersize with a few legal fish up to 25 inches caught. For grouper the best bait was fairly large live pinfish, either hooked mouth first on a large jig head or on a knocker rig. For snapper, live shrimp, small pinfish and pilchards fished on a 1/0 circle hook with enough weight to bounce along the bottom was the ticket.
Spanish mackerel and small sharks were reported less than a mile off Sanibel Beach. The mackerel were running up to 22 inches and the sharks from 3-5 feet with many of them hard-fighting blacktips. Look for surface activity around bait schools and watch for birds.
Grouper limits were caught west of the Sanibel Lighthouse in depths from 65 to 80 feet. Most were reds with the largest at 28 inches caught on pinfish, grunts, mullet and squid. Sharks up to 5 feet were also caught while grouper digging.
Well, school is back in session again, I hope everyone had a chance to spend some quality time on the water with the young ones over the summer. It should really be quiet on the water now with the kids back in class and summer vacations coming to a close. This is a peaceful time to enjoy on the water, take advantage of it, before you know it our winter friends from the north will be back.
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Have a safe week and good fishin'.